Straight-talking Andy Long is a no-nonsense former military man and soccer coach.
He’s also a golf fanatic and the main force behind expanding the Gazette Senior County Amateur from one round to two more than 20 years ago.
Although he can’t hit the ball quite as far as he used to, the 78-year-old resident of Carlisle, Pa., is returning to Schenectady this week to not only compete in the Senior County Am, but also to say hello to a bunch of his old buddies.
The Gazette Senior County Amateur will be played Thursday and Friday at Schenectady Municipal Golf Course. Only Schenectady residents — and former champions — are eligible to compete. Golfers will play for net prizes in the first round in the 50-59, 60-69 and
70-plus divisions. Only the low 20 gross scores and ties advance to the second round.
Originally, the Senior County Am was a one-day event, but the tournament eventually became so popular that many of the older set requested to make the championship even bigger.
“I remember going to the paper to ask them to make the tournament two days instead of one,” said Long, a two-time Senior County Am champion. “Somebody there said that we were talking about a bunch of old men, and I told them that’s exactly where a lot of the old men were — on a golf course.”
Long went out and got many of his friends to sign a petition, asking the Gazette to expand the tournament. I didn’t see any reason against it, and the executives at the paper agreed to make it a two-day affair.
“I definitely think it was a good move. There are a lot of seniors who really enjoy that tournament,” he said.
Long said that he not only is fortunate to still be playing golf, but he’s also lucky to even be alive.
“I appreciate being able to play, but more importantly, I appreciate the fact that I’m still alive. Lung cancer crippled me,” he said. “My right hand and right arm are practically useless. I can still play golf, and I can still get around in the 70s, but I’m doing it with my left hand and left arm.
“I was definitely in very bad shape there for a while. But I had a good doctor and a good hospital.”
Long served 20 years as an intelligence officer and security official in the Air Force, and that’s where he picked up the game.
“I kind of took it up in England when I was serving over there. I belonged to some courses over in England, and I won some tournaments,” he said. “One was during World War II, and it was called the Royal Arthur Cup. I can still remember reading the headlines the next day. They said ‘Yankee wins Royal Arthur Cup.’ Believe me, there weren’t too many of us Yankees playing golf over in England at that time.”
Long quit the game for a while, but he picked it up again when he was in his 50s. He worked in the Shenendehowa school district for 20 years, including 19 with the soccer program.
“When I got to Schenectady, I became a lot more serious about golf,” he said. “I remember playing [the Gazette Senior Amateur] one year and winning with a 67. I also finished second a number of times. I played in it virtually every year until I moved down here in June 2002. That was a bad year for me, in a way, because I miss playing with all the guys.”
Long was one of the regulars in a loop at Stadium, and he played as often as he could.
These days, he carries an 11 handicap, but he remains competitive.
“It will be nice to be back and see all the guys again,” he said. “I came back last year, too, and I enjoyed it. I’m really looking forward to this.”
Paul Pratico, a six-time winner of the regular County Amateur, is the two-time defending champion in the Senior County Amateur. Seven-time regular County Am titlist Jim Mueller will be shooting for his first Senior County Am title.
Other former champions in the field include five-time winner Neil Golub, Jim Gardy and Mike Carroll.
Entry deadline is Monday.
PROS IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Most of the area’s top club pros from the Northeastern New York PGA will be battling for the NENYPGA Stroke Play Championship Monday and Tuesday at Albany Country Club.
The NENYPGA Stroke Play is the section’s most prestigious event. It will also serve as a qualifier for the NENYPGA Match Play Championship next month.
Former Player of the Year Frank Mellet of Colonie Golf & Country Club leads the point list with 1,646. Mellet, a member of the NENYPGA Hall of Fame and a former Player of the Year, is having another strong season. He has already won the Donald Ross Classic at The Sagamore Resort and Glens Falls Country Club, the two-day Professional Championship at Berkshire Hills Country Club, and the Senior Professional Championship earlier this week at Westport Country Club.
Mellet is also leading the NENYPGA Senior Player of the Year standings with 2,250. He was the 2012 Senior Player of the Year and is almost a lock to repeat.
Defending NENYPGA Stroke Play titlist and Player of the Year Scott Berliner of Cobleskill Golf
& Country Club is second on the point list with 1,296.67, followed by Colonie G&CC assistant pro Ian Breen (1,156), Steve Vatter of Capital Hills at Albany (849.64), Bob Mucha of Greenock Country Club (746.67), Glenn Davis of Albany Country Club (624.25), Tom Oppedisano of McGregor Links Country Club (609.50), Tom Sullivan of Wyantenuck Country Club (573.81), Peter Gerard of Mill Road Acres (572.50), Paul Jaycox of Cobleskill G&CC (561.75) and John Souza of Stadium Golf Club (483.81).
The pros will tee off from 10 a.m. until 11:03 Monday and beginning at 8 a.m. on Tuesday.
- The next Eastern New York Golf Association event will be Wednesday at Kingswood Golf Links.
- The Jack Scaccia Jr. Memorial Golf Tournament, named after the late bowling proprietor, will be held Monday at Mohawk River Country Club & Chateau. Proceeds from the tournament support and further youth bowling in the Capital
Region. Entry fee is $125 per golfer, and includes golf, cart, lunch and dinner. Call 393-5013 for more
- The Union College Football Dick Roberts Fighting Dutchmen Gridiron Club Tournament will be held Sept. 20 at Mohawk Golf Club. There will be a 10:30 a.m. shotgun start. Lunch and dinner will be
included. You can sign up online at www.UnionAthletics.com.
- The rescheduled Joan Nicole Prince Home Benefit tournament will be held Aug. 19 at Mohawk Golf Club. Originally slated for June but rained out, the tournament will have a $175 entry fee that includes breakfast, golf, cart, snacks and lunch. There will be an 8:30 a.m. shotgun start. All proceeds benefit the Joan Nicole Prince Home. Call 346-5471 for more information.
- Saratoga National Golf Club will host the Teeing Off on Cancer Golf Classic Aug. 26. The tournament benefits the Coaches vs. Cancer program to fight cancer nationwide. For more information, contact Amanda Medina at 472-0069.
- Schenectady Municipal Golf Course will host the Peter Famiano Memorial Golf Tournament Sept. 8.
The event is held in honor of the late Schenectady City School District Hall of Fame member who was an integral part of Linton’s 1960 state championship team. Famiano, also a member of the New Jersey PGA Hall of Fame, was the 1961 New York State Junior Amateur champion. The golf tournament is part of this year’s Schenectady City School District Athletic Hall of Fame festivities, with the induction dinner being held the next day.
Entry fee is $300 per foursome, and includes golf, cart, continental breakfast and a buffet following golf. The scramble starts at 9 a.m., and there will be gross and net winners. Call Bob Pezzano (346-9297) for reservations. Entry deadline is Aug. 23. The tournament will be limited to the first 28 foursomes.
- Ballston Spa Country Club will host the NEWGA Best Two Balls of Four Championship on Friday.
- The annual Airway Meadows Benefit Golf Tournament is set for Saturday. Entry fee is $85, and includes golf, beverages all day, a chicken & kielbasa dinner, and a live auction. Proceeds will help benefit a college student from Schuylerville who is battling cancer. Call 792-4144 for more information.
- Also at Airway Meadows, the second annual David LaFountain Memorial Golf tournament will be held Aug. 31. Proceeds go to the Center for Donation & Transplant of New York and Vermont. Entry fee is $85, and includes golf, an entry gift and a steak/chicken barbecue.
Dave Erb, the 89-year-old retired thoroughbred jockey and trainer who won the 1956 Kentucky Derby and the Belmont, aced the 137-yard fifth hole at Brookhaven Golf Club. He used a 7-wood. It was Erb’s third ace on the same hole and his fourth hole-in-one overall.
Bob Smith of Scotia collected his second career hole-in-one on the eighth hole while competing in the Cobleskill Golf & Country Club Member-Guest tournament.
At Amsterdam Municipal, Nate Hall used a 3-iron for a hole-in-one on the 213-yard eighth hole.
Also at Amsterdam Municipal, Pat Dufresne holed out from 211 yards on the 13th hole.
Tony Benaquisto of the Falvo golf league hit an 8-iron for a hole-in-one on the third hole at Schenectady Municipal Golf Course. It was his second career ace.
Also at Schenectady Municipal, Bruce Bramley of Mohawk Golf Club aced the 17th hole.
Bill Sudol of Knox hit a hybrid-7 on the 120-yard 14th hole for a hole-in-one at Briar Creek.
Arnie Wyse, 75, of Cambridge holed out with 3-wood for a double-eagle on the par-5 ninth hole at Mohawk River Country Club & Chateau.
Denny Flanagan eagled the 15th hole at Briar Creek.
At Schenectady Municipal Golf Course, Chris Clark eagled the second hole and Carmen Parisi eagled the ninth hole in the MAC league.
Mike Wright eagled the second hole while playing in the Maqua Major league at Schenectady Municipal.
Barbara Bishop eagled the par-4 11th hole from 140 yards out at Schenectady Municipal Golf Course.
Patrick Shawver eagled the 321-yard, par-4 16th hole with a gap wedge, and Nate Shawver eagled the 502-yard, par-5 eighth hole at Airway Meadows.
At Stadium, 13-year-old Jason Cyr eagled the par-4 first hole with a 5-wood.
Alex Bond eagled the 10th hole, and Jim Geiger eagled the 15th hole at Amsterdam Municipal.
Steve Brzozowski collected his first eagle on the par-4 16th hole at Windy Hills with a driver and a pitching wedge.